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Cat Dehydration

Do you worry that your cat isn’t drinking enough? Cats can be really fussy about what they drink and where they drink it from so it’s quite common to never see them having any water at all.

If your cat is thirsty then they will drink.  It could be they are doing this when you aren’t there. Many cats don’t like the taste of chlorinated tap water so will sneak off to the garden to lap up rainwater from a bucket or sip from a pond. There are a few easy ways to check that your cat is getting enough to drink and help them drink more if they need to.

Does my cat drink enough?

The amount a cat needs to drink depends on their age, weight and how active they are. But  on average they should be having around 200-400 mls of water a day, that’s about one mugful, a lot less than dogs or humans.

If you usually feed your cat wet food then often they can get enough moisture from this and don’t need to drink much more. However there are some occasions when it is important to make sure your cat has a lot of water. If they have an illness which makes them drink more than normal, like diabetes, kidney disease or chronic cystitis then you do need to make sure they are getting enough to drink. Some forms of cystitis can even get worse if your cat doesn’t drink enough.

How can I encourage my cat to drink more?

If you have a cat who is fussy about what they drink out of try experimenting with different bowls to find out which one they like best.  Often cats choose glass bowls rather than plastic ones.  They will all have their individual preferences, some like bowls to be shallow and wide so they don’t get their whiskers wet, whereas others want to drink out of a tall glass.  If you have the time and patience then it’s worth trying lots of different types to find out what your pet prefers.

Put lots of bowls in different places about the house, cats can have strong views on where they like to drink as well. If you notice one bowl emptying quicker than the others then you will have an idea of your cat’s chosen drinking spot.

Lots of cats don’t like the taste of chlorine so will prefer bottled or rain water.  Many also like running water instead of a bowl on the floor and will ask for a tap to be turned on.  These cats will often not drink enough unless a tap is left running all the time - not very practical!  Buying a water fountain from your local pet shop can help make sure these cats drink more.  

If your cat suffers from cystitis and you need them to drink more fluids make a tasty fish or chicken stock and add it to their supper or feed them wet food instead of dry kibble.  Some owners have found that putting tuna juice or ice cubes in their cat’s water can encourage them to drink more too.

How can I tell if my cat is dehydrated?

If your cat is quieter than normal and you are worried they are dehydrated then there are a couple of things you can do.  Pinch up a little bit of the skin on the back of their neck – called a skin tent - and count how long it takes to go back down.  If it’s longer than 2 seconds then this may be a sign they aren’t getting enough to drink.  Some very thin cats will have a longer than average skin tent so you can also check their gums.  If they feel dry or tacky then it’s likely your cat is dehydrated.  
If you think your cat has a longer than average skin tent and tacky gums then you should take them to the vets as soon as possible where they can have intravenous fluid treatment.

My cat is drinking more than normal.  Should I worry?

If you notice your cat drinking more than usual then this is time to worry, especially if it’s a sudden change. There are lots of conditions that will cause this, some more serious than others.  However all of them will probably need some form of treatment so it’s worth getting your pet checked by a vet to find out what’s going on.  A simple blood test will tell you if everything is OK.  

So don’t panic if you think your cat doesn’t drink enough, they are probably having more than you think or getting enough water from their food.  As with most other things, cats have very strong ideas on what they want to drink and where they want to drink from, so take time to know your cat’s drinking habits and you’ll be able to make sure they have enough fresh water every day to keep them in tip top condition.